Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Gluten Free enters fine dining article on Grub Street

"Gluten-free" is one of those phrases that drive food people crazy. Like pescetarians and people who believe vodka to be less caloric than other alcohol, diners who avoid gluten often seem to be following a fuzzy health craze that has more to do with opportunistic marketing than real science. But chefs and bakers still have to confront the reality of gluten-averse customers, and surprisingly, their efforts to satisfy this growing demographic are transforming "gluten-free" food options from stigmatized substitutions into everyday menu items.
For the uninitiated: When people talk about gluten, they're referring to a protein in grains that form strong bonds in dough. It's what makes a pasta shape like orecchiette hold its shape when it's boiled: Naturally occurring gluten is what gives pasta its form.

Some people really do have a medically diagnosed intolerance to gluten — a condition called celiac disease that affects less than 1 percent of the U.S. population — and coming into contact with it causes their immune system to act up, and they can become terribly ill. But a growing number of diners who don't suffer from that ailment, which is actually an autoimmune disorder that is often very difficult to diagnose, are claiming that cutting gluten out of their diets improves their energy level and generally makes them feel better. Studies don’t seem to show much benefit, but that doesn't matter: Whether it's a placebo effect or not, plenty of diners believe gluten is an enemy of healthy living — and chefs have realized that they need to cater to this clientele.

“I first noticed it in 2008,” says Nick Anderer, now the chef at Danny Meyer's Maialino, who was working in Rome at the time. "I was working in a couple different restaurants, and in both kitchens I'd go downstairs into the pantry areas and they'd have all these boxes of gluten-free pasta. We'd sell fifteen to twenty a night, maybe out of a hundred covers." It wasn't a fluke: "At first I thought it was an anomaly, but then I'd go work at the second restaurant and see the same thing.”
Interestingly, gluten-free pasta has even been catching on in Italy. (“Telling an Italian that they can't eat pasta is like telling someone they can't breathe,” Anderer says.) The pasta aisle at the old-guard Italian grocer D. Coluccio & Sons in Borough Park is now stocked with things like imported cappellini and rigatoni that are made with rice bran, potato starch, chestnut flour, spirulina, and spelt instead of traditional flour. 

When Anderer opened Maialino in 2009, he offered Rustichella d'Abruzzo, an organic corn-based spaghetti, to guests with gluten sensitivities. "We kept it really under the radar for a while," he says. After all, the restaurant’s showpiece bread station is practically a monument to the wonders of gluten, with its piles of housemade focaccia and fresh-baked country bread.

But as demand for the gluten-free product grew, Anderer noticed that corn-based pasta didn't go well with many of the restaurant's sauces. So he started experimenting by making gluten-free pasta in-house. Maialino now uses a special rice flour blend from Caputo to make fettuccine and two other pasta shapes that are matched to twelve or so sauces on the menu. (Anderer admits that no matter how rigorously they keep the gluten-free product separate from the rest of the food, there is still too much gluten in the kitchen for some people: "Anyone who's supersensitive can't eat this.")

And Maialino is far from the only high-end Italian restaurant working with gluten-free pasta. Customers at Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s Del Posto typically get two servings of pasta during any single meal. After an uptick in requests — from up to 30 guests a night — for gluten-free pastas, chef Mark Ladner's kitchen tinkered with alternative flours, including ones milled from beans. "We felt it unfair for some guests to have uneven or less soulful pasta experiences than the others in their group," he says. Eventually, Del Posto settled on using a product called Cup4Cup, a gluten-free flour alternative developed by Thomas Keller protégée Lena Kwak. (Some call Cup4Cup — a combination of ingredients like rice flour, milk powder, and xanthan gum — a game changer; critics point out that three pounds cost $19.95 at Williams-Sonoma, which is about a 700 percent price markup over regular all-purpose flour.)

But regardless of how they make it, chefs like Ladner and Anderer have proven that gluten-free pasta can stand up against the regular stuff. As a result, the category commands far more respect than it did five or six years ago.

Interestingly, the next battlefield for gluten-free products is where the term first started to gain prominence: bakeries. At San Francisco’s Tartine, owners Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt produce some of the nation’s most highly regarded breads, scones, and croissants. Prueitt, however, is gluten-intolerant, which inspired Robertson to seek out several dozen obscure types of grains and begin experimenting with them. What began as an attempt to avoid gluten has unquestionably pushed Tartine’s bread forward and turned heads in the professional baking community. A Wall Street Journal story called them "baking's power couple."

Karen Freer, a former office worker with celiac disease, started Free Bread last year after losing her job. Now her breads are carried by Whole Foods in New York (in the freezer section) and at several other high-end grocers. Freer also has a wholesale business, and her breads are also currently distributed through Tom Cat Bakery to restaurants throughout the city.
But gluten-free baked goods have proven more problematic than pastas, where inconsistencies can be masked with sauces and cheese. "In order for gluten-free to be delicious, a person really has to know how to bake,” says Shuna Lydon, the talented pastry chef who now works at Bklyn Larder. “The thing about alternative baking is that if you're omitting flour or omitting sugar or eggs, those are foundational ingredients, and at the same time you need to know why these things are there in the first place.”

Lydon says she'll start selling her own no-gluten baking mixes this fall, since products like Cup4Cup and other substitutes don't work as well for pastries. “Almost all of the mixes on the market have legume flours in them — fava flour, garbanzo flour,” Lydon says. “So if you close your eyes and sort of think about it, do you really want to eat something with raw garbanzo beans or a chocolate cake that tastes like soy?”

Lydon and Anderer both emphasize the product can’t just look like the one it’s replacing, but it must also taste good. “I subscribe to the Chad Robertson and Tartine Bakery school of thought,” Lydon says. “Flour should have a flavor. It’s not just a background texture."

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Few more GF items at TJ

Went to TJ this fine, rainy morning and a nice lady who worked there told me that there were GF cupcakes and a GF flourless cake in the baked goods section.  Went to go check it out and bought the cupcakes.  They're chocolate.  The flourless cake is also chocolate.

One other tidbit she told me that should excite snackers....TJ will be coming out with GF JoJos(aka Oreos) in a month or so.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Trader Joes: New GF product

GF Chocolate Chip cookies

They're thin and kind of like those homemade chocolate chip cookies that are sort of crisp.

Each package comes with 14 cookies.  Within the package, there are 7 cookies in 2 separate smaller packages.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Guest article: How to Stay Healthy while on Vacation by Cole Millen

Taking a vacation is a wonderful way to reduce stress and improve productivity at work and at home. Taking yourself out of the normal routine can be exhilarating, but many vacationers end up packing on those extra pounds they worked so hard to get off before their retreat. In order to stay healthy and fit while on your getaway, there are a few simple steps you can follow to retain that pre-vacation body.
Depending on how long you are in transit, one way you can maintain a healthy diet is to avoid indulging in that greasy airport food. Not only is this food expensive, but it’s also designed for speed and convenience. While this is great for travelers in a rush, it’s not good for your diet. One way you can eliminate these unnecessary calories is to eat before you fly. If you have a long day of traveling ahead of you, try and pack healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, and crackers in your carry-on luggage. This can be a great replacement that will curb your appetite. You should also avoid picking soda for your in-flight drink. Stick to juice or water––this will be better for you in the long run.
Since hotels are a staple for any vacationer, this can also end up being a destructive influence on your diet. When choosing a hotel, make sure you research the quality of the pool and workout facilities, since these features will help you stay slim during your stay. If you prefer not to be stuck in the gym, there are usually activities such as volleyball going on at the pool area that can serve as a good alternative. Although the primary goal on a vacation is to relax and socialize, you can always look for group fitness classes that fit your style. Some hotels have complimentary sessions or appointments with personal trainers. Make sure to look into all your options beforehand so you can plan ahead. I recently took a trip to Sin City and found a great site that listed reviews for Las Vegas hotels. The reviews not only gave me insight into which hotels were perfect regarding amenities and offerings, but it also had reviews regarding the restaurants in the surrounding area. This allowed me to plan out how to remain healthy while in and out of the hotel!
One of the keys to having a successful vacation is to strike a nice balance. While you want to indulge, you can do so in moderation. Avoid temptation where you can. Refuse (or hide) the key to the minibar, which will help you stay trim and also avoid making a dent in your wallet. If your hotel has a continental breakfast, skip the pancakes and bacon. Especially if it is early in the day, stick to healthier options such as oatmeal, fruit, and whole grain toast. When eating out, be aware that most restaurants serve food that contains higher calorie content than the healthier food you cook at home. I suggest you research the restaurants near your hotel and check the menu offering in advance. Try and avoid chain restaurants and make sure to stay away from any meals that have stuffed, loaded, smothered, battered, creamy, bottomless, or fried in the description. Choose steamed vegetables as a side and if you have the option, pick salad over soup.
Since most vacations are more than just hotel living and restaurant food, you can use your exploring to your advantage. When out on day trips, try and walk as much as possible. Walking is the fastest and easiest way to burn calories while still enjoying your vacation. Also, eat when you’re hungry. It’s easy for busy travelers to forget to eat, but maintaining a regular meal schedule is especially important on vacation. Regular meals will help you cut down on snacking and keep your body in better shape as you sightsee. Drinking water is also very important. If you want to keep your energy up, staying hydrated is the easiest way to keep your body going.
It’s important to unwind while you’re on vacation, but remember to relax your body and mind without relaxing your diet. Stay disciplined, and you’ll come home to an even healthier you!

Saturday, May 4, 2013


So, we've moved to NY.

From now on, all of the posts will be about GF things in NY/NJ

Went to TJ over in Westwood, NJ today and went shopping.  They don't exactly have the same items as they do in LA or California.  Produce, fruit, meat, etc.  They don't carry the TJ GF bread there.  I asked if they carried it and the person looked at me like I was crazy.  They have UDI's and I forgot the other brand.  I think the other brand was Food 4 life.

I also saw some other interesting things that I bought to try.

GF English muffins and french rolls.  Obviously, you're not going to be able to replicate the texture in the english muffin without gluten.  It tastes a bit like an english muffin and I haven't tried the french roll yet.

I found this:

I believe the GF wraps were from Shop Rite.  They also stay soft if you don't freeze them.

Aside from TJ, I saw UDIs GF Baguettes at Whole Foods the other day.  Really expensive though.  I think a bag of 2-3 baguettes was around $13.  The UDIs GF dinner rolls are good.  I imagine the baguettes are exactly the same except in baguette form.